180: Brian Smith on Biochar.
Enhancing your soils through an ancient, carbon-sequestering, process.
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Brian is a systems engineer and project manager living in north Phoenix. For the past 30 years, he has worked for GE, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Honeywell on software for flight control systems in commercial and military aircraft. Recently, he became an entrepreneur and started a small software development company. To balance his high-tech career, he has enjoyed more simple hobbies like making beer, woodworking, and organic gardening.
During the Great Recession, he purchased a foreclosed property that had been neglected and abused for many years and he has spent the last 8 years renovating both the indoors and outdoors. After removing 5 layers of different landscaping stone that previous owners had covered the yard with, he spread several inches of arborist wood chips over the dirt to reduce water loss and increase soil fertility. In the backyard he converted a broken-down diving pool into a private aquifer by filling it with rock and gravel, connecting a pump to the drain pipe and covering it with topsoil. He now has several fruit trees and a vegie garden growing on top of 3000 or 4000 gallons of secure rainwater.
In this podcast: Greg talks to Brian Smith, a transplant to Arizona who needed to improve his gardening results and found out about biochar. Brian explains the process that was used over 2000 years ago, to transform burned wood into a long lasting organic super buffet with nutrients galore. He tells how he was so interested in the results that he took his research to the point that he can now make his own biochar in his backyard.
Listen in and learn about:
- Moving to Phoenix and buying an unlivable fixer-upper and the work they did to make it a home
- The repairs and improvements he made to the house and especially the yard and broken pool
- How he turned his pool into a reservoir filled with a rock and gravel basin covered with a vegetable garden
- How biochar is different from just burnt wood
- Why nutrients are infused into the charcoal
- The origins of biochar in the amazon
- Some of the places to find biochar around the world
- How much biochar is needed to make a difference
- How the biochar works and some of the results that he has seen since using it in his gardens
- The first time he was introduced to biochar and his initial research
- Compost tea and how that helps him make his biochar
- How biochar is much like the infrastructure of cities
- How he makes biochar at home from ordinary firewood
- The TLUD or top lid up draft method
As well as:
- His failure – His first three years of veggie gardening in Phoenix, including trying to grow carrots in April
- His success – discovering biochar, and now having enough in his crops that he can share with the insects after he gets what he needs
- His drive – discovering his passions and finding what engages him
- His advice – “Begin with the end in mind” Stephen Covey
How to reach Brian: